What's new and how it compares

The silver-accented top plate does its best to hide it, but the a7C (left) is a fair bit deeper than the a6600, and it has a dedicated exposure comp dial, which the APS-C camera doesn't. Considering its sensor is more twice the size though, the a7C is impressively small.

In terms of core specifications, the a7C has a great deal in common with the existing a7 III. The biggest differentiator is size. Sony has redesigned its in-body stabilization system to fit into a much smaller body than before.

Key takeaways:

  • Truly compact form factor
  • Latest AF implementation is a big step up from the a7 III
  • Otherwise, broadly as capable as the a7 III
  • Fully articulating touchscreen is good but touchscreen use is limited

What's immediately striking about the a7C is how similar the camera body is to that of Sony's a6600 model, for better or worse. Sony describes the camera as the world's smallest interchangeable lens full-frame camera with in-body image stabilization: a rather contrived way of acknowledging that Sigma's fp model is smaller.

Autofocus

The a7C gets Sony's latest AF implementation, which the company calls 'Real-time tracking AF.' This follows whatever subject you want to track, both in stills and video shooting, and automatically makes use of its eye, face or head-recognition where appropriate. It does so in such a way that it won't get distracted by other faces in the scene when the one you chose looks away. The camera can also use subject recognition to track dogs, cats and birds, and their faces.

The above video shows Sony's real-time tracking in action on an a6400 camera, but the performance and interface is identical to the a7C.

This AF system is better than the one used on the a7 III in a number of ways. The main one is the all the tracking and eye-detection capabilities are better integrated into the main AF modes, meaning you don't have to hold down a second button to utilize eye-detection. Also improved is the subject tracking in video mode: you gain a level of tracking stickiness that's consistent with performance in stills mode. Unfortunately if you engage tap-to-track focus in video mode, it's also applied to stills mode (whereas we prefer to tap to position the focus point when stills shooting, not to also initiate tracking).

Fully articulating screen

The a7C joins the pro-video a7S III in gaining a fully articulated screen. And, while we often think of articulating screens in terms of video or selfie shooting, there's another respect in which it can be a really useful design.

The a7C's comparatively small size makes it well placed to act as a carry-everywhere camera for travel, family photography and just everyday life. The ability to turn the screen to face the back of the camera means you can throw it in a bag with abandon: free from any concerns about scratching the rear LCD.

Menus

Sadly, because it uses the older Bionz X processor, the a7C doesn't gain the updated menu design introduced in the a7S III. There is an upside, as this means the a7C will be immediately familiar to anyone who's used an a6000-series or a7-series body before. The downside is that it means memorizing the location of specific settings (they tend to shuffle around from model to model) or time spent creating a 'My Menu' tab collecting together all the options you regularly use.

The a7C uses the older, less easy to visualize menu layout

Like other recent Sony models, the a7C also lets you define separate 'Fn' menus for stills and video shooting, meaning you can gain quick access to up to 12 settings for each mode, again reducing the need to interact with the main menu system.

How it compares...

The list pricing of the a7C is $100 higher than that of the original a7 In 2013, and $200 less than the Mark III was launched at. This makes it broadly comparable with the launch prices of the Nikon Z6, Sony a7 III and Panasonic S5, which is usually the best way to work out its competitors. However, the presence of another Sony in that group makes clear that the picture is a little more complex.

The a7C's price and specification similarity to the a7 III show it isn't a like-for-like replacement for the older model, which suggests it's trying to be something different than these rivals. This is a camera whose stand-out characteristics aren't improved image quality or some whizz-bang feature: it's all about size and convenience.

Sony a7C Sony a7 III Nikon Z6 Panasonic S5
MSRP (body only) $1799 $1999 $1999 $1999
Pixel count 24MP 24MP 24MP 24MP
Sensor tech BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS
AF system On-sensor PDAF On-sensor PDAF On-sensor PDAF Depth from Defocus
(Contrast Detection-based)
Image stabilization 5-axis 5-axis 5-axis 5-axis + sync with lens IS
CIPA rating Up to 5EV Up to 5EV Up to 5EV Up to 6.5EV
Maximum frame rate 10 fps 10 fps 12 fps
(12-bit Raw)
7 fps (AF-S)
5 fps (AF-C)
Flash Sync speed 1/160 sec 1/250 sec 1/200 sec 1/250 sec
High Res mode No No No Yes
Viewfinder
res / mag
2.36M dots/
0.59x
2.36M dots / 0.78x 3.68M dots
/ 0.80x
2.36M dots / 0.74x
Rear screen 0.92M-dot fully articulated touchscreen 0.92M-dot tilting touchscreen 2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen 1.84M-dot fully articulated touchscreen
AF joystick No Yes Yes Yes
Top-plate settings display No No Yes No
Video capture UHD 4K 24p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 30p
(1.2x Crop)
UHD 4K 24p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 30p
(1.2x Crop)
UHD 4K 30p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 30p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 60p
(1.5x Crop)
Log/HDR modes S-Log2 / 3 / HLG
8-bit
S-Log2 / 3 / HLG
8-bit
N-Log
10-bit (HDMI)
V-Log/V-Gamut
HLG
10-bit
Memory cards Single SD Dual SD Single XQD Dual SD
Battery life (CIPA) LCD/EVF 740 / 680 710 / 610 380 / 310 440 / 470
USB-charging Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dimensions 124 x 71 x 59 mm 127 x 96 x 74 mm 134 x 101 x 68 mm 133 x 97 x 82 mm
Weight (CIPA) 509g 650 g 675 g 714 g

So, while the main specs don't look that eye-catching, given the a7 III is over two years old and selling well below its MSRP, the most important row on this table is 'Dimensions'. If we assume the a7C (series?) is going to sit a little below a hypothetical a7 IV, then its major proposition is that it's small and convenient, rather than trading on cutting-edge performance.